Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why are so many white men trying to save the planet without the rest of us?

Why are so many white men trying to save the planet without the rest of us?

Climate change affects minorities and women, the elderly and the poor. But the leadership of the environmental movement is pale and male. That doesn't look like progress
Americans are regularly told that climate change is happening here and now, in real time, and that nobody will be left unscathed. Just this week as a corporate-backed disinformation campaign continued to fuel lobbying against climate science and on behalf of a failed vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House released a landmark climate change report, underlining that "[c]ertain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of colour." According to the even more landmark IPCC report, that goes for the developing world and rich countries alike.
Just the other day, the National Wildlife Federation announced its new president – a white male "whiz kid". Last month, the Climate Reality Project, founded by Al Gore, replaced its female chief executive with a white man. Last November, the National Parks and Conservation Association replaced its veteran leader with another white male. The Union of Concerned Scientists is due to announce its new leader as early as next week. Spoiler alert: it's not going to be a woman.
Public opinion research in the US suggests women, Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and Native Americans are more concerned – and more directly affected – by climate change than other populations. Doesn't it make sense to include those who are most at risk in decisions about how we fight the defining challenge of our time?
Now take a look at the top executives at eight of the top 10 groups devoted to fighting that fight:
Sierra Club? White male.
Nature Conservancy? White male.
League of Conservation Voters? White male.
World Wildlife Fund? White male.
Environmental Defense Fund? White male.
Friends of the Earth? White male.
National Audubon Society? White male.
Nature Conservancy? White male.
The very top of "Big Green" is as white and male as a Tea Party meet-up. It doesn't look like change. It doesn't even look like America. So is it any wonder environmental groups are having trouble connecting with the public on climate change? Corporate and conservative funding of climate denial is one thing, but it's beyond past time for the leaders of this movement to look at how their choice in leadership is affecting their strategy and messaging.
It's not as if there haven't been opportunities: the last few years have seen a generational change as more and more founding activists of the 1970s have retired. But rather than embrace the turnover as a chance to make change, we have exceptions to the old-white-man rule:
  • The Natural Resources Defence Council has a woman president in Frances Beinecke, but she just announced her retirement.
  • Greenpeace on Tuesday chose the well-known activist Annie Leonard as their president. Women also lead at Environment America, Defenders of Wildlife and Rainforest Action Network. And not to knock their leadership, but those are much smaller organizations. They are far from the top when it comes to getting money from donor foundations – which tend to be headed by white males, too – and operate on smaller budgets. They are also less likely than Big Green groups to get the access to White House officials who would help them shape climate policy.
  • Women and minority candidates have been applying for those top jobs, in some cases getting shortlisted. And they have been getting the top environmental jobs in government for years: Barack Obama chose Lisa Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Steven Chu to head the Energy Department during his first team. He promoted Gina McCarthy to the top job at the EPA. Even George Bush – though he blocked action on climate change – appointed Christine Todd Whitman to head the EPA.
Set aside for a moment the equality-in-the-boardroom part. America is in the midst of a demographic transformation. By mid-century – as the effects of climate change really begin to bite – whites will no longer be the majority population. In California, Latinos became the single biggest ethnic/racial population last March.
And yet the environmental groups that are calling for sweeping changes to the economy – moving away from oil and coal to carbon-free sources of energy – seem incapable of making a transition themselves.
"The community should challenge itself in the same way that it challenges corporate America to change the business-as-usual trend," Kalee Kreider, a former environmental advisor to Al Gore, wrote me in an email. "It's well past time for the environmental movement to look more like America and the world."
That gap between activists and Americans has resulted in some bad decisions. In 2009, with Obama in the White House and Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, Big Green took a roll on the once-in-a-generation chance of trying to pass climate change legislation. Their strategy? Engage in a series of clubby, back-room negotiations with the chief executives of oil and utility companies to reach a deal that achieved some carbon cuts – while limiting the costs to big business. The insider deal suffered a spectacular collapse.
Then there's the messaging. Environmental groups are only now beginning to wake up to the idea that bombarding the public with graphs and statistics is not, on its own, going to persuade people that climate change has anything to do with their own lives.
Meanwhile, beyond Washington, and beyond the male-dominated preserves of Big Green, women activists are just getting on with the job – without that White House access or the expensive consultants paid for by the biggest of big donors.
It's worth remembering that one of the biggest victories for the environmental movement in recent years – last month's indefinite delay on the Keystone XL pipeline – was achieved thanks to the efforts of Bold Nebraska, a tiny environmental group with just three paid staffers, which assembled an unlikely coalition of ranchers, Native Americans and other activists operating in one of the country's most conservative states.
The president of Bold Nebraska who was so instrumental to that breakthrough? Why, that would be one Jane Fleming Kleeb.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Women Candidates Know These 5 Truths

Women Candidates Know These 5 Truths

By: Mary Hughes

Across the country filing deadlines are passing and political campaigns are underway. With women at such a deficit in every state legislature (24 percent) and in Congress (18 percent), we need good women candidates running their best races. So perhaps a few reminders are in order:

1. Reflexive modesty undercuts voters' perceptions of your strength and competence. From an early age, many women learn to share credit and to make everyone a proud part of a successful enterprise. Perhaps moms are passing down the quality they believe make them good family managers and peacekeepers. Unfortunately, elections are singular pursuits resulting in winners and losers. Speaking plainly about achievements is essential to conveying readiness to lead.
Too often, women use language like "We organized" or "I helped build..." or "My team succeeded..." when in fact, they were the brains, drive and direction that led to success. No one likes a braggart, but a forthright description of ingenuity and hard work doesn't need to be offensive. Giving voters a true picture of what a candidate has accomplished is critical to success.

2. Raising money is about making a case for the cause. Recent research confirms that asking for money is a standard requirement of candidates for public office. The anxiety, avoidance and fear of failure that often accompany fundraising stem from a misunderstanding: That soliciting financial support means risking personal rejection. Not so. The best fundraisers enlist supporters in a cause rooted in their shared values. They ask for funding to achieve a policy goal, solve a problem of common concern and provide potential donors with proof of viability and a roadmap for success.
Raising issues that other candidates have not -- poverty, access to health care, early childhood education -- can be powerful. For many donors, keeping their issues visible and well argued is enough to prompt them to give. A candidate's personal qualities and political viability are factors in a donor's assessment, but not the only ones. And a donor who declines today may reconsider tomorrow.

3. Career "time-outs" are not a political liability. Few women start work and continue on uninterrupted over the course of a lifetime. Many start and stop several times; some switch from full to part-time work to accommodate family responsibilities. Other change jobs or careers.
Rather than see this pattern as debilitating, embrace it for the wisdom accumulated and the political base built. The very activities required of moms and caregivers expand their political networks and give women experiences that deepen their understanding of what's needed in public policy. Consider it a competitive advantage.

The neighborhood cobbler and dry cleaner, doctor and dentist, teacher and coach, recycling center volunteer and hospital staff can form a powerful base from which to launch a candidacy. Instead of worrying over conclusions that voters may draw about employment "gaps," women do well to mine those gaps for community ties and experiences that tell voters, "I'm like you. I get your life."

4. Women ignore gender-biased media coverage at their own peril. Many women believe it is a sign of sophistication to brush off gender-biased press coverage. Those who aspire to high office are not whiners, right? But what does it say about a candidate if she will not stand up for herself? How will she be able to stand up for the voters?

If a news story, column or comment derives from a woman's gender and the net effect is to make her "less than..." it must be addressed. According to "Name It, Change It," a study commissioned by the Women's Campaign Fund and Women's Media Center, it is necessary to identify the offense in order to change the practice.

Whether the conversation is between a candidate and a reporter, or a press conference demand for a wholesale change in editorial policy depends on the particulars. The point is: Women can't let sexism go. When voters hear the debate, they make fair judgments, but they can't be fair if they don't get the facts. Belittling press coverage is an opportunity for candidates to show how really big they are.

5. "Vote for me. We need more women" is not a winning appeal. Voters want to select the best person for the job. Asking them to make a judgment based on an immutable characteristic -- race, ethnicity, gender, age, etc. -- isn't making the best case. Accomplishment and character; vision, problem-solving and diligence rank high among qualities voters are looking for.
Recent research concludes that working together women and men get better results than teams of only one gender. There is more and more evidence that women in legislative bodies change the agenda, procedures, content and outcomes of policy debates. And there are other benefits of having women in office. In other words, women elected officials act differently and make a difference. But that is a conversation and message to be delivered by advocacy groups.

Winning candidates focus on what they can do for the people they hope to represent.
How they do that signals the kind of leader they will be. Some questions for candidates:

• What will you do to lighten their load? (Purposeful)
• How will you make government solutions work for everyone? (Knowledgeable)
• What are the specific, realistic changes you can make? (Practical)
• What have you done before that demonstrates you can do this now? (Accomplished)
• What can you share that communicates: "I am like you. I am for you?" (Connected)
• Will voters always be proud that they chose you? (Honorable)


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Join Us This Saturday, April 12th, For A Senate District 26 Panel Discussion

Join us at 11:00 AM on Saturday April 12 for a panel discussion with the women candidates in the Senate District 26 race, moderated by Kafi Blumenfield.

  Space limited - RSVP Requested, to

Santa Monica Library
601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica 90401

Event Website: 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WEHO Women's Conference April 4-5

April 4-5, 2014: WEHO Women's Leadership Conference

The 8th annual West Hollywood's Women's Leadership Conference: Unlimited Opportunities - Knowledge.Power.Community. will be held April 4 - 5, 2014! The mission of the West Hollywood Women's Leadership Conference is to provide tools and support, inspired by the City's Core Values, for women to be successful leaders in their private lives, in business and in the community.
The 2014 Keynote Leadership Luncheon panel will feature an innovative and in-depth discussion around Women in the Arts & Media and will feature Patt Morrison, LA Times Columnist and Pulitzer Prize Winner; Charmaine Jefferson, Executive Director of the California African American Museum; Jane Espenson, Writer and Producer of hit shows such asBuffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, and the acclaimed online series Husbands; and Brad Bell, Writer, Actor, and Producer of the acclaimed online series Husbands!   
April 5, 2014
9 am - 4:30 pm
West Hollywood Park
625 N. San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069 
$35 Early; $45 Advance; $55 Day; 15 Senior/Full-time Student Rate
Special leadership program for young women 14-18. Advanced Registration Required!

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